University of Sheffield report sparks parliamentary debate on the importance of international students

Representatives supporting the report outside the House of CommonsOn 6 June 2013, The House of Commons debated the value of international students to the UK, urging the government to remove international students from immigration targets, just weeks after a University of Sheffield report demonstrated their importance to the economy. The debate was secured by Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield and colleagues in a cross-party alliance pressing the Government for change.

The debate was strongly welcomed by The University of Sheffield and its Students' Union who have been working with MPs of all parties to support the call for change, citing an independent report commissioned by the University which found that international students provide a net benefit of £120 million to the Sheffield economy each year.

University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: "The University of Sheffield is asking the government to look again at the way international students, who are so vital to our world-leading universities and to the UK economy, are counted alongside immigrants. It is crucial that a wider debate about levels of immigration does not unwittingly deter the most talented international students who make such a powerful contribution to the success of British universities and to the UK more widely.

"In a city like Sheffield, and indeed across the UK, international students bring skills, talents and investment which are make or break for our world-class universities and for regional economies. Many of our international students are postgraduates in subjects like science, medicine and engineering where we have a known skills gap. International students don’t just attend lectures, they create new enterprises, support our work with industry and serve as doctors in the region's hospitals.

"In short, our city and region need our international students and we must be careful not to lose them. This position is strongly supported by business in Sheffield, who know exactly how crucial our vibrant international community is to our city, and I know from speaking to other Vice-Chancellors that the position is exactly the same across the rest of the country."

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, who has been a leading voice in Parliament calling for change states, "I've been pressing this issue since the University of Sheffield and their Students' Union first raised it with me over two years ago. We've built considerable support for change and the independent report commissioned by the University has provided powerful evidence to back our arguments. International students not only add to the vitality of our universities and their research capacity, but are hugely important to our economy. We must make sure that we don’t miss out in this growing world market because of ill-considered visa rules."

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